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On-campus lab work makes a welcome return

15 July 2020

Hand sanitiser

The School of Chemistry has begun its phased return to on-campus laboratory work, as national restrictions caused by COVID-19 begin to ease.

The upkeep of the School has been maintained through the efforts of professional services staff under Dr Rob Jenkins, who have ensured that essential equipment, like the NMR machines, have been properly maintained throughout lock-down.

The team have been particularly busy installing a range of new signage and hand sanitising stations throughout the School, enabling the first phase of researchers to return safely.

Most of this Phase 1 research work will focus on activities which contribute to the national drive to better understand the coronavirus, develop effective treatments, and fight its spread in the population.

Dr Louis Luk is a chemical biologist who has developed a collaborative project between Cardiff and Xiamen Universities for discovering lead compounds that can specifically target SARS-CoV-2 infection and the associated “cytokine storm”.

Current treatments, such as Remdesivir, rely on pre-existing drugs that have been developed for related infections. Dr Luk’s work will contribute to new, targeted approaches, to refine the clinicians’ armoury.

A research team under Prof. John Pickett is establishing new analytical protocols for investigating volatile compounds trapped on masks and clothing. They are looking to identify volatile organic compounds diagnostic for individuals infected with SARS-CoV-2 from the masks or socks worn by infected people, making a comparison with samples from uninfected people to avoid false positives.

It is hoped that this will contribute to high throughput non-invasive rapid diagnosis approaches for detecting infection in the general population.

The Cardiff Catalysis Institute and the advanced electron spin resonance analytical experts are also joining the Phase 1 effort. They are working on ways to enhance the deep cleaning protocols that are required to keep people safe, as we enter our ‘new normal’ lives.

With this successful implementation of Phase 1 researchers, our plans are well on-course for the forthcoming Phase 2 return, as we seek to safely reopen our remaining laboratories for both staff and postgraduate research students.

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